A desperate battle is being waged to stop donkeys being wiped out in Africa, to supply insatiable Chinese demand for donkey skins, used in phony ejiao “medicines”.

According to the UK Donkey Sanctuary’s report “Under the Skin”, China demands a massive 10 million donkey skins every year. Yet there are only 44 million donkeys in the world. This means that within the next four years, donkeys could be extinct.

The global purchase of donkeys and donkey skins is a savage operation run by organized Chinese syndicates who show no mercy for animals or people that get in their way. In South Africa, they often descend on rural villages and steal donkeys or force owners to sell at giveaway prices.

At an auction in South Africa, Jonno Sherwin out-bid Chinese buyers who wanted to kill 236 donkeys and 30 horses for their skins. Jonno action saved the day and the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary is the result of his selfless intervention. But now Jonno is battling to pay the bills for animals’ food and care. Network for Animals is stepping in to help him, by providing financial support.

Hideous donkey abuse in Greece

On the Greek island of Santorini, we helped expose horrific cruelty inflicted on donkeys every day in the peak of the summer. On Santorini, donkeys and mules are forced to carry tourists up and down a 1300-foot high cliff all day in the baking sun without shade, food or water.

Donkey owners say if they provided food, the donkeys would stop to eat when carrying tourists. This would mean fewer trips and less money for them.

Some donkeys have open wounds, others have crude wire muzzles over their mouths to prevent them from eating. The donkeys’ working hours are supposed to be regulated but the authorities have done nothing because of the money donkey-owners (called “muleteers”) rake in from visitors.

The municipal authorities have now promised to improve working conditions, but they promised ten years ago to provide drinking troughs at points on the cliff path. They haven’t done a thing.

One woman is the champion of donkeys in Santorini. Christina Kalouda runs the small Santorini Animal Welfare Association (SAWA) animal shelter on the island. Christina has rescued and cares for 14 old donkeys who will live out their final years in peace at her sanctuary. She also lobbies local authorities to act against the cruelty inflicted on donkeys. But she is so hated by some muleteers that she dares not go into the town. Network for Animals is providing financial support to SAWA and through our sister organisation, the Political Animal Lobby, we are pressing for a long-term solution to the problem of donkey exploitation on Santorini.

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